Saturday, October 24, 2015

How to Overcome Suicidal Thoughts

Like all of Satan's temptations, suicide is only attractive to those who are ignorant of the implications. Satan sells suicide as an escape. When you just can't take what life is handing you anymore, you hit the escape button. After all, it seems nothing can be worse than this. Sound familiar?

Well, it is a lie. Whatever life is handing you at this moment is exactly what you need to overcome to go to the next level of your existence. That test--that basket of tribulation--is not going to go away. Life is not an open plain, where you can choose some other path if the one you occupy becomes to difficult. The way is strait and narrow, but it is also straight. "There is no other way." The only way to escape is to go through what is troubling you. You can't go around, and you can't go away.

There is no escape. If you end your life, you will just have to go through everything that makes you want to commit suicide again, worlds without end, until you learn to overcome them. It's like dropping a college course with a 100% guarantee that it will be just as hard the next time you complete it, if not harder.

Many who contemplate suicide have been overcome with guilt over a sin that they just can't seem to shake. God gives us weakness so that he can make those things strong. He doesn't make us strong by magically taking the weakness away. He makes us strong by teaching us uncomfortable, soul-shaking truth that robs the devil of his lies by teaching us the hidden consequence of sin, robbing carnal temptations of their desirability.

Death does not change a soul. It merely temporarily removes them from mortality. They will return to mortality, and when they do, whatever they were struggling with will return with them. The end of the struggle is not death, but the acquisition of knowledge borne of experience that overcomes the struggle. We, like Jesus, must overcome ALL things.

Suicide, in every case, is nothing more than a pause button. There is no eject button in our progression. There is no other way.

The Woman Taken in Adultery

This really is a gem of a story.

 1 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.

 2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.

 3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,

 4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

 5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

 6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

 7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

 8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

 9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

 10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (John 8)

The Pharisees were trying to entrap Jesus (as they are wont to do). They knew he was preaching mercy, and figured that he would forgive the woman thus violating the law of Moses, which required that a woman with sufficient witnesses to convict her of adultery needed to be stoned to death. Instead of doing that, Jesus invited any who were without sin to throw the first stone. Obviously, no man could do that. They left, and Jesus, not being an eye witness, was left without any proof that the accusation was true (though obviously he knew it was, being Jesus). Thus, he was able to forgive the woman without violating the law of Moses.

Sometimes Jesus flagrantly broke the law of the Jews. Sometimes (like on this occasion), he went through great lengths to keep it. Why the distinction? The law of the Jews came from two sources. That portion that came from God through Moses, Jesus kept with exactness. That portion that came from the additions, modifications, and removals of the leaders he openly broke and publicly contradicted.

To learn more about the fascinating doctrine of the Pharisees, watch this video. It is excellent!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Musings on temptation, knowledge, and salvation.

The purpose of this life is to learn to distinguish between good and evil and to choose good. Human beings are inherently rational. We do not choose evil because we love evil, we choose evil because we are blind to the true consequences of choosing evil. Satan's main tactic is to misrepresent the true consequences of sin. We are blind to the true consequences of evil because we love evil and do not search in the light. In order to search for further light and truth, one must be ready and willing to part with any and all false traditions. This means having a willingness to have what are now positive things in your life turn bitter. It is gutwrenchingly unpleasant. To those who will let him do it, God will show that there is nothing Telestial that is worth the cost. The only thing in this kingdom that is worthwhile is to keep God's commandments, because God's commandments belong to a higher state of glory than where we find ourselves at present. Many are frustrated in their attempts to overcome sin because they are trying to defeat problems of this kingdom without obtaining knowledge pertaining to a higher kingdom. They think that sin can be overcome if one feels guilty enough about it, or if one has enough negative worldly consequences (such as peer pressure), or if one prays hard enough for God to suspend their agency and magically take sin away. Those solutions will not change a person's character. The only way to overcome sin is to learn to see things as they really are--as God sees them. This requires new knowledge. New knowledge changes your perspective on all things in life. New knowledge brings you to the point where sin has no power over you--not because you have been magically changed or because God has suspended your agency, but because you are a rational being, and God has revealed to you parts of the equation that were previously unknown to you. These are mysteries of Godliness, and God cannot reveal them to the world. It would be unmerciful to do so because Telestial beings cannot bear them. Telestial beings require the illusions of this life to endure the pain of this life. If God revealed to them the truth of the things they treasure, life would be so miserable as to guarantee suicide (though even suicide is no consolation to those who see things as they really are). Only as they submit to the Spirit can they become strong enough through faith in Christ to endure the suffering of this kingdom without the counterbalance of Telestial (counterfeit) comforts and pleasures. One is saved no quicker than he can obtain knowledge because it is your degree of knowledge that determines your degree of sinlessness.

I don't have time to polish this now, but I am dumping quotes and verses here for later:
"Knowledge saves a man and in the world of spirits a man can't be exalted but by knowledge. So long as a man will not give heed to the commandments he must abide without salvation. A man is his own torment. 115 Hence the saying they shall go into the lake that burns with fire & is as exquisite as a lake & so is the torments of a man" (Joseph Smith, WOJS 7 April 1844)

"If we get puffed up by thinking that we have much knowledge, we are apt to get a contentious spirit, and knowledge is necessary to do away contention. The evil of being puffed up is not so great as the evil of contention. 3 Knowledge does away darkness, supense and doubt, for where Knowledge is there is no doubt nor suspense nor darkness. There is no pain so awful as the pain of suspense. this is the condemnation of the wicked; their doubt and anxiety and suspense causes weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth. 4 In knowledge there is power. God has more power than all other beings, because he has greater Knowledge, and hence he knows how to subject all other beings to him." (Joseph Smith, WOJS 8 April 1843)

"At 10 Prest. J. preached on 2nd Peter Ch 1. He shewed that knowledge is power & the man who has the most knowledge has the greatest power. Also that salvation means a mans being placed beyond the powers of all his enemies. " (WOJS 17 May 1843)

"He spoke of the importance of our understanding the reasons and causes of our exposure to the vicissitudes of life, and of death; and the designs and purposes of God, in our coming into the world, our sufferings here, and our departure hence—that it is but reasonable to suppose that God would reveal something in reference to the matter—the ignorance of the world in reference to their true condition, and relation. Reading the experience of others, or the revelations given to them, can never give us a comprehensive view of our condition and true relation to God. Knowledge of these things, can only be obtained by experience in these things, through the ordinance of God set forth for that purpose. 3 He remarked that the disappointment of hopes and expectations at the resurrection, would be indescribably dreadful. That the organization of the spiritual and heavenly worlds, and of spiritual and heavenly beings, was agreeably to the most perfect order and harmony—that their limits and bounds were fixed irrevocably, and voluntarily subscribed to by themselves—subscribed to upon the earth—hence the importance of embracing and subscribing to principles of eternal truth. He assured the saints that truth in reference to these matters, can, and may be known, through the revelations of God in the way of his ordinances, and in answer to prayer. The Hebrew church "came unto the spirits of just men made perfect, and unto an innumerable company of angels, unto God the Father of all, and to Jesus Christ the Mediator of the New Covenant;" but what they learned, has not been, and could not have been written." (Account of Discourse by Joseph Smith, WOJS 9 Oct 1843)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

A blogger recently compiled a list of reasons people abandon the gospel and church. Some of those reasons are reasonable, but most have good answers. In hope to provide some of those answers, which I don't seem to see anywhere else, I will provide a series of answers to these questions.

One of these questions is why bad things happen to good people. The issue is this: when there is a tsunami and 200,000 people die, or when your kind grandmother dies of bone cancer, or when you suffer through the abandonment of a spouse through no fault of your own, how can God allow such a thing to happen?

This question reduces to two simple questions: 
1) Are the consequences of mortality limited to mortality?
2) Are the experiences of mortality limited to our current probation?

The answer to both of these questions is a resounding no. In brief, God not only allows but ordains bad things to happen to good people because it is one main ingredient in the pool of knowledge one must attain to become a god.

Mormonism is the only religion of which I am aware that provides an answer to this question. All Christians believe that God is omniscient in one form or another. Only Mormons believe that 1) his omniscience applies only to this sphere1, because he progresses, and 2) have an answer to how he gained his knowledge of this sphere. He was once a man, like you and I2. This condition preceded his mortal ministry by who knows how many iterations, because while on the earth he was not like you and I, already having a level of knowledge and power far exceeding any other mortal in this iteration. To get to that point, he had to experience everything mortality had to offer. In Christianity, God can commiserate with mortals through knowledge of their experiences. But only in Mormonism can God commiserate with mortals through experience of their experiences. Only in Mormonism is God's knowledge a product of his experience rather than some supernatural gift attained in absentia.

It may seem unfair or pointless for a person to suffer through bone cancer. In actuality, there are character traits that one can only attain through suffering3. There are character traits that one can only attain through losing a child. There are character traits one can only attain through suffering through abuse. And so on. To become a god, one must suffer through all these things. Because our experience stretches over many probations (worlds without end), the calculus of whether this suffering is pointless or essential has to be done with a long term view. Our knowledge continues with us even after this life4. Our suffering produces dividends worlds without end, as does everything else we learn in this life. An analogy to consider is that, if college were the sum total of what life had to offer, it would make no sense to select computer science as a major compared to, say, history, because computer science is so difficult and time consuming compared to history. It would be unfair, if college were the sum total of life, to arbitrarily assign some people to history and some people to computer science. However, life does not end with college, and those who major in computer science will earn a lot more money in their vocation than those who major in history. There is a benefit commensurate with the degree of suffering for every experience in mortality,5 even if that benefit does not necessarily occur during the mortality where that suffering occurs.

1 "All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence." (D&C 93:30)

2 "God Himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret." (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 6:303–5)

3 "And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." (D&C 122:7)

4 "Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come." (D&C 130:18-19)

5 "Therefore, let your hearts be comforted; for all things shall work together for good to them that walk uprightly..." (D&C 100:15) "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory." (2 Cor. 4:17) "Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things; it was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life....It is in vain for persons to fancy to themselves that they are heirs with those, or can be heirs with them, who have offered their all in sacrifice, and by this means obtained faith in God and favor with him so as to obtain eternal life, unless they in like manner offer unto him the same sacrifice, and through that offering obtain the knowledge that they are accepted of him." (Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith 6:7-8)

Monday, October 5, 2015

Inside Trading in the LDS Church

The big story from conference weekend is that of "ponderize." Devin Durrant, first counselor in the Sunday School Presidency, wrote a talk around the term. Meanwhile, his son and daughter-in-law registered an affiliated website on September 27th selling t-shirts and wristbands of the meme.

This is a rather egregious example of profiteering off the church. The feedback was overwhelmingly negative and speedy. There were many changes to the site from the time the talk was given until that evening. At first, the t-shirts, priced at 17.99, were dropped to 9.99, with a message placed on the site that they were being sold at cost to get the word out. Then, the prices went back up with a message that all profits were going to the missionary fund. By 10:45pm Sunday, the site was taken down.

It would be nice to think that this is an isolated occurrence, and that this sort of thing doesn't happen very often. It would also be incorrect to think so.

The fact is that the church is large and wealthy. Billions of dollars change hands every day. To think that every person directly involved as well as the family and friends of every person involved would avoid profiting off of privileged information is naive indeed.

Case Study: Zwick Construction
Elder Craig Zwick has been a member of the 70 since 1995. He also happens to be the former owner and CEO (his son now runs it) of Zwick Construction, who has built or remodeled 8 temples, 9 chapels, and several other buildings for the church. This amounts to over 100 million in construction revenue from the church. Is this a conflict of interest?

Case Study: The Gilbert Arizona Temple
When a temple is announced, property values adjacent to the proposed site double overnight. Anyone with advanced knowledge of a temple announcement, therefore, stands to profit enormously by purchasing the adjacent properties before the announcement is made. The LeSueur family, who owned over 200 acres of farmland in Gilbert, managed to convince the church to build a temple on land they donated. The LeSueurs were able to convert the zoning of the adjacent land to residential, and now are developing a gated neighborhood of 262 homes. David LeSueur was called to be president of said temple.

The same story occurred with the Oquirrh Mountain Temple and the Draper temple. Companies donated the land for the temple and made an incredible amount on the increase in property value of the surrounding lots.